Does Your Family Value Money?

“We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.”—Gloria Steinem, author and activist

What value does money have in your family? Do family members feel like you’re rich—or poor? (How family members feel can often be different from what your true financial situation.) The way you talk about money and use it teaches your kids a lot about how you value money. What are your kids learning from you?

Tips for all parents...

  • Notice how you talk about money when bills come in and when tax season appears. Do you complain? Do you curse? The way you react and talk about money makes a strong impression on your kids.
  • Learn more about how to talk about money well (and get your kids interested in using their money in more positive ways) by visiting www.bankit.com.
  • Think about how you decide when to spend money and when to wait. Do you follow a budget? Your gut? A spending plan? A whim?
  • Learn how to live within your means. It’s too easy to always want more money instead of working with what we have. Kids pick up this attitude as well.
  • Get more tips about teaching kids about money through ParentFurther.

For parents with children ages birth to 5

  • When your children are young, it can feel like you’re headed straight for bankruptcy. Your spending needs change drastically when you start parenting children. Figure out which expenses you can cut back on while you make room for another person in your family.
  • Ask grandparents for help. Maybe one set of grandparents would be happy to buy a crib. The other set may be happy to purchase a stroller. Then look for deals at second-hand stores for kids’ clothing.
  • Focus more on what you have: each other than on what you don’t have: a lot of money. You can have rich experiences together as a family on a small budget.

For parents with children ages 6–9

  • Talk with kids about how your family’s spending reflects your values and priorities. Kids can understand why you say no to more hand-held video games but yes to signing up for an extracurricular activity.
  • Ask your kids to think about how they use their money. Instead of just buying something that gets them excited in the moment, ask: How does the way you spend money show what’s really important to you? (It’s okay for your child to indulge once in awhile. Help your child not to do it all the time.)
  • When kids ask why one aunt and uncle may give them more gifts for their birthday or the holidays compared to another, explain that every family has a different budget and income. More gifts does not equal more love.

For parents with children ages 10–15

  • Young teenagers often will spend most (if not all) of their money on social activities. That’s okay. Fitting into a peer group is important for this age group. Just talk about what they’re doing and why. Then explain how the way we use money changes as we grow and develop different priorities.
  • Encourage young teenagers to save, even though they may have a hard time doing so. Talk about how putting money aside can help them reach bigger goals, such as buying a bike, an mp3 player, or a cell phone.
  • Continue to be mindful with how you use and talk about money. Kids at this age will quickly notice if your actions and your words don’t jive. Work to be as consistent as possible.

For parents with children ages 16–18

* Encourage older teenagers to think more long term. What do they want to do after high school graduation? How will saving money help them meet their goals and achieve their dreams?

  • Keep talking about how you value the way you use money. It’s smart to set budget limits for school dances and other things your teenager may want in order to also save for your teenager’s education after high school.
  • Discuss with your teenager how he or she uses money. What are your teenager’s money strengths? What are your teenager’s money temptations? Work together to set goals for your teenager to make more positive choices with his or her money.
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